By Charles Petty | This story appeared in the August printed edition of The Rant Monthly.
Nonprofits are extremely important to the well-being of any community. They help provide services to those who need extra help and aid those who are suffering from abuse, homelessness, and any number of other needs that are sometimes simply just not met.
The Lee County nonprofit community includes food banks, homeless shelters, and thrift stores – all united in making sure that Lee County residents get whatever help or supplies they need, and there isn’t one that hasn’t seen its goals and needs shift in the past year-plus thanks to “bumps in the road” delivered by the COVID-19 pandemic. Charities from the Bread Basket to the Salvation Army all depend upon resources and community involvement, much of which has been dried up since COVID hit.
The Christians United Outreach Center is well known for both its thrift store and food pantry. When the Coronavirus hit in March 2020, the normal ways of operation had to be changed. In response, CUOC created a mobile food line where meal components could be delivered to clients via their car trunks instead of allowing people to enter the pantry building. This allowed for the safety of both clients and pantry volunteers.
CUOC Director Teresa Kelly said that along with the usual groups in need, new groups of people needing food emerged from the pandemic.
“People who were let go from their job, people who worked in service industry jobs with no income coming in, lots of situations like this caused an uptick in people we helped through the food pantry ministry,” she said.
The CUOC did notice a shortage in certain items, but due to area partnerships the food pantry remained stocked. CUOC is partnered with the Central and Eastern North Carolina Food Bank, which help local pantries deal with shortages and supply chain concerns.
Family Promise of Lee County, which helps families experiencing homelessness, is another nonprofit which has faced changes in its operations recently. The charity offers 60 to 90 day programs in which clients are provided shelter and meals by area churches and volunteers, as well as help with case management.
Pre-pandemic, Family Promise was averaging around sixteen families a year to help house. But when local churches were shut down in accordance with pandemic safety protocols, families were moved into Family Promise’s day center, where case management usually occurs. Ultimately, this resulted in a significant reduction in space available for families seeking shelter.
“Last year we had eleven families come through since we did not have the room to accommodate as many families,” said Tamara Brogan, the executive director. “Running at half capacity has affected us in trying to help homeless families.”
As the world reopens, Family Promise is looking for more churches with which to partner in offering space for homeless families.